Time to Upgrade My Computer

More than two years ago I switched from PC to Mac (yes, I’m still loving it) and I think it may be time to upgrade my system. Actually it was time five months ago, but the money wasn’t there. First we had a baby and I didn’t want to be surprised by the hospital bills (which, by the way, come in small, slow installments so you don’t realize how much you’re really paying). Then our tax bill was approaching, and well, that’s a big one. Then I had to wait for a few projects to come through and make sure our cash flow was good. But finally, I think it’s time.

So what should I buy?

My immediate need is memory. I’ve got a 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5 with 512 MB of memory, which for the most part has been sufficient. But I have noticed that when I’m in full work mode (Mail, multiple Firefox windows with multiple tabs, multiple Word docs, an Xcel doc, iTunes, Photoshop, Address Book, iCal and maybe iPhoto or Quicken just for fun) I have less than 5 MB of free memory according to the Activity Monitor, which means a really tiny green sliver of the piechart is available. I notice the slow down when I jump between applications and the spinning rainbow ball has to sit there for a while.

So I’m thinking of adding 1 or 2 GB of memory. Jumping to 1 GB should be sufficient, but going to 2 GB is only $100 more.

For a long while now I’ve thought I should do something about back-up. I’ve backed up my important stuff on CDs or DVDs and have updated them every six months or so, and I also have critical stuff backed up to my .Mac account weekly. But none of that covers my entire system or even touches my music, video or photo collections. Now that I have 1,000+ pictures of my daughter on this thing, that’s a little scary.

So it seems like a no-thinking back-up system would make sense. Right now I’m looking at a LaCie 250 GB external Firewire harddrive for $170. Firewire would make it nice and fast and 250 GB would easily back up my desktop and my laptop. (Has anybody tried backing up two systems on one harddrive? How easy is that?)

I only wish they had a cheap option with a removable disc so I could keep one back up at home and one in a remote location. Of course I don’t have a remote location, but it seems like the secure thing to do and gives me an excuse to get a fancy safety deposit box. But that kind of system would either be really expensive or require multiple disks. It’d be cheaper and easier just to buy two back-up harddrives.

I’m also looking at upgrading to OSX 10.4 Tiger. It would cost $200 to bring both my desktop and laptop up to date, though I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Most of the new features don’t seem that exciting, though another part of me says it will just run better and faster, so go for it. And then I could enjoy the new features, no matter how necessary they are.

There’s also the tempting iLife ’06 update. That would cost $99 for both computers. Now that I’ve been editing video and creating DVDs I think some of the extra features might be worth it. But it’s still just a toy. Not sure if that one’s worth it.

I think that would probably do it. I’m tempted to look into more memory for the laptop, though I think I’d prefer the instant gratification of putting new memory in the desktop, seeing how much faster it is, and then doing the same for the laptop.

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